Two things are immediately striking within the first few pages of Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven. The first has to do with the art, gorgeously drawn by Denis Medri (link). This Lion Forge Comics graphic novel is a deeply nostalgic affair. The art has the sepia tint of a flashback scene, which gets washed out for the actual flashback scenes. The sepia is an interesting and important choice. We are no strangers to neon at NRW; it gives us a hyper-energetic, vibrant, and largely imagined past. The sepia permeating the pages of the comic is like beautiful rust. It adds tenderness and charm, while also giving a strange kind of sadness. Andre Roussimoff is iconic of an age of wrestling where the wrestlers had folk hero Paul Bunyon-esque charm. In a world of larger than life characters, he was the largest. He died young, as a result of heart failure, and so the gentle giant never had the chance to age as poorly in the public eye as Hulk Hogan, his greatest rival. This ties in to the second thing that struck me early in my experience reading the comic. It has to do with the story that Brandon Easton (link) has carved out of the life of one of the most immediately recognizable and loved figures of all pop culture. Unlike the narrative of professional wrestling, with its revolving door of caricatures and overly simple face vs. heel mentality, the narrative of the graphic novel explores the tension between optimism and pessimism.
Easton's script presents itself in the form Andre narrating his own life. This creates a pretty tricky needle to thread. It allows us to feel closer to Andre the person, as opposed to Andre the Giant. On the other hand, the immense difficulty of adequately portraying the inner life of a real-life mythic figure shows itself occasionally with minor awkward lines. The majority of the narration works, and even finds several moments where it presents profound and insightful lines. The dialogue is more successful, and you can hear Andre's distinct voice in your head as you read him.
Throughout the transcontinental life that he led, it's impossible to not love him. As he learns of his shorter-than-average life expectancy, as he turns to the bottle to cope, as he really begins to understand that he is outgrowing the world, there is a heart to him that carries the story. He makes a racist joke and is reprimanded for it, but he owns up to his mistake. His defeat at the hands of Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III is gracefully portrayed before transitioning to a touching resolution. It would be interesting to do a Buddhist reading of this comic, as the driving force for Andre is his search for happiness. Fans of old wrestling, unique art, or heartfelt storytelling shouldn't miss this.
Does anybody have a peanut?